AN AYR man has pleaded guilty to a charge of theft after he hired mechanical equipment, including a digger, from a company in town and failed to return it.

Ayr Sheriff Court was told Lewis Faulds owed a “vast” drug debt to “certain individuals” – who got wind that he’d hired the equipment and then seized it from him.

The 30-year-old hired the digger, saw, extractor and generator from Martin Plant Hire on Boundary Road – but the company later discovered that a tracking device had been removed from the digger.

Ayr Sheriff Court was told the firm tried without success to contact Faulds to find out what was going on.

The incident happened between January 20 and 23 last year.

The procurator fiscal depute said a branch manager at the company had taken a call from a man who identified himself as ‘Lewis’ and who said he needed a digger.

The prosecutor continued: "He attended and identified himself, providing a passport as ID. He signed a hire contract for £648.

"He later requested to hire a saw, an extractor and a generator.

"A few days later they contacted the accused's number to no answer. The person at the address stated they knew the accused.”

The court was told tracking devices had been tampered with and that the total value of the items was £18,300.

Defence solicitor John Gallagher told the court the firm was not left out of pocket, though the items were never recovered.

Mr Gallagher said: “There was no intention at that time the goods would not be returned.

"Certain individuals to whom Mr Faulds owed significant sums of money became aware he was in possession of them.

"There were then discussions about the goods, and they took possession to eliminate vast quantities [of debt].”

Sheriff John Montgomery asked if the debt run up by Faulds was drug-related, and Mr Gallagher confirmed that it was.

Sheriff Montgomery told Faulds: "By a small margin I am not sending you to jail, but it is a very small margin." 

Faulds, of Lochside Road, was put on a community payback order with 12 months of social work supervision.

He will also have to complete 250 hours of unpaid work during this time.